GV hosts Democracy 101 event to educate voters on midterm proposals


GVL / Aida Dennis

Jacob Welch, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s Office of Student Life hosted its third Democracy 101 event on Oct. 5, this time focusing on midterm ballot proposals.

GVSU’s Office of Student Life: Civic Engagement coordinated with the Campus Vote Project, a non-partisan, non-profit organization that works to support student engagement in the democratic process.

“We work with about thirty campuses in the state to support student voting on campus, and of course, it is non-partisan to ensure that students have no barriers to voting,” Campus Vote Project’s Michigan Coordinator Landon Myers said. “This event was about the proposal process in general, to get proposals on the ballot in Michigan, and the three ballot proposals this November – just to provide information to students so that they know when they vote in November what’s going to be on the ballot.”

One of the event’s main purposes was to describe the three statewide proposals that will be on the back of voters’ ballots on Nov. 8. These proposals cover highly contested topics including term limits for lawmakers, voter rights and access to abortion services.

Associate Director of Student Life for Civic Engagement and Assessment Melissa Baker-Boosamra aims to have the university’s Democracy 101 events serve as vital opportunities for student voters.

“I would like Democracy 101 to be remembered as a student-led effort to provide space for students by students to talk about issues that matter,” Baker-Boosamra said. “I would encourage students to take a look.”

Through the event on Oct. 5, specifically, organizers sought to bring clarity to students surrounding the language and implications of this year’s ballot proposals.

Proposal One, as described by Myers, primarily concerns legislative term limits, instituting a change from separate term limits of six and eight years in the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate, respectively, to one term limit of 12 years in either or both chambers. It also covers financial disclosures, with Michigan being one of two states having nothing codified in this area.

Proposal Two, the event organizers described, concerns voter accessibility, making voting a right for all citizens and making the overall process easier.

Proposal Three was described as permanently codifying abortion into Michigan law, with restrictions placed on the procedure when the fetus becomes viable outside of the womb.

“I think one thing I learned was actually knowing what the proposals were,” GVSU senior Breezy Rusher said. “I only knew two of the ones that were up there.”

Myers emphasized the importance of educating collegiate and first-time voters as they prepare to make electoral decisions.

“I think, being as new voters, there’s a lot of barriers of just not having information readily available,” Myers said. “We want to make sure that there are resources there. I think the big thing is, if we get students to start voting now, they’re likely to be lifelong voters.”

The implications such could have for student voices and on the democratic system, Myers said, is critical to keep in mind as GVSU voters head to the polls on Nov. 8.

“Voting is so important for representation to have a voice in the process, to be able to be an active part of democracy,” Myers said. “So, we need to support and promote that and getting people voting early is a great tool to promote democracy.”

Throughout the Democracy 101 series, Baker-Boosamra and the staff at the Office of Student Life plan to continue to use the events to further educate campus voters.

“We’ll have representatives from the on-campus democracy challenge, talking about federal and state voting, voting rights,” Baker-Boosamra said. “We’ve got our partner, Justin Roebuck who is the current Ottawa County Clerk who’s going to be talking about election security on Nov. 2. He’s received national awards for his work as an elections official and some time to kind of debrief after the election as well.”